Five game keys plus a Bears-Redskins prediction:
1. The Redskins need to be very afraid of kick returner Devin Hester but the numbers suggest that the Bears’ special teams may be slowing him down themselves. Yes, Hester is averaging over 30 yards per return but he hasn’t been impressive in the “what have you done lately” department. In the Bears’ first two games Hester returned six kickoffs and averaged 46.6 yards a pop. Since then he has 13 kickoff returns and an average of a more pedestrian 22.7 per return. The Bears have been hit hard with injuries and, as often happens in the NFL, the effects have trickled down to their special teams.
2. It was good to see Robert Griffin III running well and picking up some big chunks of yardage against the Cowboys and the Redskins hope he will keep it up on Sunday against Chicago. However, Griffin having a big day on the ground is not necessarily a key to victory. The game in Dallas marked the eighth time in his career that Griffin has rushed for 60 yards or more. The Redskins’ record in those games is 4-4.
3. The Redskins have only run up the middle 19 times this year but those runs have been productive plays. They average 9.6 yards per play when going up the gut. Coincidentally, there have been 19 rushing plays up the middle against the Bears’ defense this year. Chicago has give up an average of 5.7 yards on those plays, 28th in the NFL. Sending Alfred Morris into the middle of the line really isn’t the Redskins’ style but they might find that area to be a fertile hunting ground on Sunday. Perhaps they could give Darrel Young a few carries on quick hitters in the middle as well.
4. DeAngelo Hall was not covering Dez Bryant exclusively Sunday night just like he wasn’t on Calvin Johnson every play during the Lions game. But he was the guy who was primarily responsible for containing Johnson (7 rec., 115 yds., 1 TD) and shutting down Bryant (5/36/0). It will be the same situation with Hall on Monday when he will cover Brandon Marshall most of the time. If Hall again comes up big then the game may come down to how well Josh Wilson, David Amerson (assuming he plays) and the rest of the secondary do against wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, tight end Martellus Bennett, and running back Matt Forte.
5. It’s probably too early to really worry about Kai Forbath, especially after he set such a high standard for himself last year by making his first 17 field goal attempts. But since then, going back to the 2012 season finale, he has hit on just three of six. Perhaps it’s not fair to be too hard on him for a 49-yard miss in Dallas; that’s about a 50-50 shot. But his miss in the season opener was from 40 and he missed his last attempt of 2012 against Dallas from 37. Again, it’s not panic time over Forbath just yet. But are you going to be able to watch if he lines up for, say, a 44-yarder with the game on line?
I think that Forbath will line up for that field goal with the outcome of a back-and-forth contest on the line. Does he make it?
Redskins 31, Bears 30